Opposition to base burden increases due to Osprey training in Okinawa

October 15, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

On October 14, officials from the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) visited prefectural offices and the towns and cities hosting base compounds, announcing that beginning in 2017 U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing aircraft deployed from Yokota Air Base (Tokyo) will be used at “training sites in Okinawa.” The ODB did not specify which training sites.

This is the first time the Japanese and American governments have officially approved Osprey deployments from Yokota for training in Okinawa. People from the cities and towns hosting military base compounds have conveyed to the ODB their intention to oppose training conducted by Osprey aircraft from Yokota in Okinawa, and the increase in the base burden that will come with this move. Upon hearing news of these intended flights, local governments in the surrounding areas unanimously opposed them.

Past noon on October 14, in Okinawa, Moriyoshi Shiroma, director of the Local Coordination Bureau (Ministry of Defense), delivered to Osamu Unten, head of the Military Base Affairs Division (Executive Office of the Governor of Okinawa), a compiled environmental review of American military deployments from Yokota. In the review there are mentions of the CV-22 Osprey from Yokota using shooting ranges in Okinawa. It also notes the same activity in Misawa, Higashifuji, Guam, and South Korea.
Unten, who heard the announcement from the ODB, has repeatedly explained Okinawa’s position of wanting Osprey deployments from Yokota retracted, saying that it is the public wish that flights to Okinawa do not take place. On the same day, Masaru Machida, head of the Executive Office of the Governor of Okinawa, criticized the ODB’s move as being the opposite of a base burden reduction. From now on, the prefectural government will maintain discussions on these issues.
At this time there are 24 U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft operating from Futenma Air Station. The U.S. military considered deploying U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft at Kadena Air Base also, but due to concerns about resistance from Okinawan people, instead Yokota will be used.

Used for special operations, CV-22 aircraft also operate in conjunction with the U.S. Special Operation Forces stationed at Torii Station communications institution in Yomitan Village. There are concerns flights over Okinawa will be incessant as a result of the additional deployment.

The plan is to put three Osprey aircraft on Yokota Air Base in 2017 and deploy seven more over the following years, adding up to 10 additional Osprey altogether. The rate of “class A” accidents, the most severely harmful accident classification, is between 2 and 12 per 100,000 flight hours for the MV-22 models, but between 7 and 21 per 100,000 flight hours for the CV-22 models (calculated as of January 2015). The CV-22 is 3 to 4 times more likely to have a class A accident than a MV-22 aircraft.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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